The Importance of Having an Email List

This week in SWATCH Studio, as we are welcoming in new enrollments for the course, students are already asking some very good questions:

I'm wondering if a website is essential or can you make a biz work through using social media? I feel like I know more about how to use social media than making a website and I couldn't afford to pay someone to make one for me. If it is essential can you recommend any resources to help make a diy website?

As someone who is just getting started in designing and wanting to get a business going, what are the must haves I should start with? Something techy? A certain number of patterns? Separate accounts for things? Help a newb out

I wonder about how to grow my "following" and getting my patterns noticed. I know I can't convert every pattern view but more views couldn't hurt. I'd love to hear more ways to market myself and my work without being spammy.

One of my problems so far is finding test knitters. I've posted in a few places but haven't gotten any bites yet. How can you find reliable test knitters that are willing to actually test knit your patterns when you're just starting out and don't have any following yet?

As I was reading through these, I realized that the answer to all of them was very much the same:

Email lists!

A website is not essential when you’re just starting out, (although it’s useful to have down the line), because you can certainly make it work on social media. What you really need to complement your social media presence is a landing page for your email list. Note: A landing page is a one-page website that is used to collect email addresses.

To get a business going, when you are starting out, it is crucial to have an audience for your work! So, a must is to have an irresistible freebie that you will promote on your landing page, enticing people to sign up for your email list. People who are willing to sign up for your list, in order to get the freebie, are already interested in what you provide, or they wouldn’t have signed up at all!

Growing your following and getting noticed: email lists. A good way to grow your email list is to present any new pattern releases, to your list, possibly with a special subscriber discount—you have to give extra benefits to your followers!

As for finding reliable test knitters, I have a special list on my website. I have a sign-up form for those who are interested in being a test knitter for me. This helps when I have a pattern that I want to have tested. I just send an email to them, and I know my call will be answered, because those on that list signed up specifically for this purpose.

So why are email lists so essential?

It’s still the best way to build an engaged audience, sell a product online, or create hype around your next big event or service project. When people signup to be on your list, they are interested in what you do and want to stay in the loop. They want you to let them know when you have a new pattern release, an upcoming KAL, or any other cool event.

That’s why I’m teaching my students in SWATCH Studio, this semester, how to set up, build and grow their email list AND Facebook Group, through a FREE and LIVE 6-week workshop. (Why FB groups too? Because it’s a great way to foster daily engagement and relationship building, and to see what your audience wants from you!) This is the only time I will be doing this workshop, along with the SWATCH Studio course, as I will be offering this workshop as a separate course in the future.

Enrollment for SWATCH Studio closes October 10th. If you want to discover your magic as a knitwear designer, so you can kick start your design career AND learn my secrets behind building my audience, click here to enroll now!

How to Make a Stand-Out Impression for Collaborations

In the Facebook group, Transform Your Yarn, I give members a chance to get their questions about knitwear design answered, via “Catalyst Call” live-streams, or in a blog post that I write—both on a weekly basis. If you are not in the group, click here to join. If you do not have  Facebook, but have some questions that you would like answered, just send me an email!

I also have mentoring spots open as part of my Patreon membership. For $50 a month (in addition to benefits you get with the $10 membership), you will get monthly one-on-one personal coaching calls, and access to my e-course Swatch Studio, as well as future programs. There are only 5 spots, so contact me if you are interested in this mentoring opportunity!

The topic for this week comes from Babs:

How do you approach indie dyers or yarn companies for business relationships?

I work a lot with indie dyers and yarn companies, for my designs. In fact, I can hardly remember the last design I worked on that was purely for fun and not in collaboration with anyone.

Actually, that’s not true. The last one was the Kakano hat made from YOTH yarns, but that’s been the first one in a loooooong time.

Honestly, I am the one who has been approached for collaborations, rather than the other way around. I think this gives me some unique insight since I can say what really impresses me and makes brands stand out. [Read more]

First, even if you do not know what to say or do, sending an email to ASK for yarn support, a collaboration or some other kind of relationship is so much better than doing nothing or waiting for people to come to you. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no?

I think we are scared of rejection because we are so used to rejections that turn personal. But when you are interacting with a company, it’s purely business if they do reject your offer, absolutely nothing personal. It’s a simple, “We appreciate your email, but we must say no at this time” or something along those lines.

We want our emails to stand out, because as you can imagine companies and brands receive lots of emails every day. Keep the headline, of your email, simple and to the point. The content of the email is more important:

1.         Introduce yourself, what you do (mission statement), who you serve, and HOW you serve your audience. This is your elevator pitch!

Example: My name is Francoise, a knitwear designer and teacher under the label Aroha Knits. My company’s mission is to help knitters transform their yarn into unique, hand-knit pieces to boost their confidence and creativity. How? I design knitwear designs to inspire and delight, wanting knitters to add their special touch, and I offer courses and books that transform knitters into confident designers. 

2.         State the purpose of your email: yarn support, collaboration, business relations, whatever.

Example: I have been following your work for awhile now and have been recently inspired to design a shawl using your yarn. I am reaching out to inquire about yarn support and possibly fostering a relationship for future collaborations, depending on how well this one goes.

3.         Let them know how your brand is going to provide value back to their company. You have to give back, too. Basically, how you are going to SERVE them.

Example: I have a combined social media and newsletter following of over 30k+*, and I can offer you a copy of the pattern for you to sell in your shop as a kit. We can discuss our promotion campaign together, in order to get the most amount of eyes and sales possible on our work.

*If you don’t have big numbers, that’s ok! Brainstorm ways you will be able to help each other. In fact, if you are just starting out, I would look into finding brands that are just starting out too. Help each other out!

4.         Mention your portfolio of work: Ravelry page, website/blog, social media followings.

Example: You can find my portfolio of previous collaborations at www.arohaknits.com. Talk to you soon!

Obviously, you’ll want to expand a bit more in some of these points, like the specifics of your design or your project, but this is a good outline to use, so you can start to really make an impression on companies.

P.S. This is a bonus tip—if you can make it to any of The National Needlarts Association (TNNA)  tradeshows, DO IT. This is the perfect place to network with others in the fiber industry. In-person meetings are so much more powerful than email. I cannot tell you how much freelance work I have obtained during those three days; how many new relationships I’ve made; and how many amazing people I’ve met. While I will probably expand on this topic much further on, I just wanted to make you aware of this.

Start Conquering Fear and Gaining Self-Confidence TODAY

One common trait I see among aspiring knitwear designers or other beginning fiber entrepreneurs is fear. Fear of no-one liking their work, fear of ridicule, fear of criticism, fear of failing. Whatever that fear, it is strong enough to hold them back from pursuing their dreams of sharing their creative vision with the fiber community.

A few months ago, I was interviewed on the SweetGeorgia Yarn’s podcast. The lovely host, Felicia, asked me a question that really threw me for a loop: “Where do you find your self-confidence and fearlessness?” At the time I really didn’t know how to answer the question, but over the months it stuck with me as I asked myself, “How DID I gain the self-confidence to fearlessly do what I do?”

Then it struck me! The reason why I wasn’t able to pin-point that “aha” moment, when I magically started believing in myself, was because there was no “aha” moment. It was a gradual process that took place over the months I’ve been a designer.

What did I do? The answer lies within the question. I just DID. I took action. When I was first starting out as a knitwear designer, I was super nervous about hitting the “Publish to Ravelry” button. I was scared about people not liking the design; that the design was too complicated to read or hard to follow; that it wasn’t perfect. But I clicked that button anyway and guess what? My fears were just that – fears - not predictions of the future. People loved my work!

I know that my work isn’t perfect. Some mistakes do slip by requiring people to email me for help. But even that isn’t the life-ending experience that I had built it up in my head. I provide quality customer service, in order to make up for the mistakes in my product. So now when I receive an email asking for help, I don’t sweat it.

So if you’re feeling fear and are heavily doubting yourself: take action. By taking action you gain PROOF and examples of putting those fears to rest. I’m now able to click the Publish button on Ravelry without a second thought; it’s almost second nature to me. I’m not scared about going onto Periscope to do live video-streams with my audience. I’m not scared about sharing my work on Instagram. But conquering these fears didn’t happen overnight. It was through consistent and deliberate action over weeks and months that I was able to get to where I am now.

So start taking action today - everyday. Determine what fear is holding you back, and just do it anyway. Even if it’s a series of small steps, doing something is better than nothing! That’s my challenge to you this week.

You’ll be thanking yourself that you did - a week, a month, a year from now.


You don't have to conquer fear alone! Get the chance to work with me with my Spark-Igniter Session, a one-hour one-on-one personalized Skype coaching and mentoring call. During these calls, I am 100% focused on you and your goals, and dedicated to helping YOU overcome your obstacles in your biz. Click here to request a free 15-minute consultation.

Fiber Boss Collective and Podcast

 Graphic made by Chelsea Fitch of KnitFitch.com

Graphic made by Chelsea Fitch of KnitFitch.com

What an amazing week this has been so far. My friend, Chelsea Fitch and I launched a project that we've been working on for the past few weeks, the Fiber Boss podcast and facebook group.

This was a project that we decided to do for fun; Chelsea approached me with the idea of starting a podcast and running a facebook group for entrepreneurs in the fiber industry. 

That said, the podcast was meant to be laid-back, fun and just capturing a conversation between two very passionate entrepreneurs, aka Fiber Bosses. Of course, we talk about our knitting projects, WIPs and FOs alike, but we wanted to add something extra to the podcast so that we wouldn't just be another knitting talk show. So we discussed what our strengths are and what we are knowledgeable about; being a small business owner in the fiber industry. So our podcast is heavily geared towards aspiring, beginning and expert level fiber bosses in the industry: talking about the ups and downs of being independent, tips and lessons on how to run a brand smoothly and staying motivated. The first episode was recorded in January, so naturally we talked about how to set realistic goals that are in line with what YOU want.

 Photo by KnitFitch.com

Photo by KnitFitch.com

A few days ago we launched the first episode and opened the doors to our Facebook Group, the Fiber Boss Collective, and it has completely exceeded our expectations. While this project was just something fun, we did notice the lack of resources and communities for fiber entrepreneurs to come together and collaborate and communicate. However, people have taken to it so much better than we thought, so the Fiber Boss Collective and Podcast will become a major part of Chelsea's and I's business journey.

We are 100+ members strong already, and fiber entrepreneurs of all trades, designers, yarn makers, teachers, etc., are making connections and reaching out for advice on how to take their business to the next level. It's amazing, and we are both overwhelmed with positive emotions.

Have you given the podcast a listen to yet? You can listen to it here and if you are a fiber boss, you can request to join the group here! Chelsea or I will accept your request within the next 24 hours.

5 Tips FOR Fostering a Community of Engaged fans on Ravelry

One of the biggest lessons I've learned from being a small business owner is that my product (my patterns) will sell if I do one of two things (both is better): 1) my pattern fulfills a need or 2) the customer is able to make a personal connection with my work or brand. I'll be focusing on #2 in this post.

The topic for this blog post was requested by a dear friend of mine who was feeling frustrated on how to use Ravelry in order to better engage with her audience. She wanted to know how I was able to foster a community there, especially in the forums. So I'll be sharing 5 tips on how to foster a community of engaged fans on Ravelry. 

1. Figure Out What You Want to Use Each Platform For

I use several different platforms to connect with my audience: Instagram, Facebook, my blog and Ravelry, and I use each one with a select purpose in mind. I use Instagram to put my best foot forward (that's why I'm so particular about what images I post there), Facebook to show a more relaxed side of me as well as some behind-the-scenes looks, my blog to educate, inspire and motivate and the Ravelry group to have conversations with my followers.

By separating each platform for a select purpose, your audience can choose to follow you based on how they want to interact with you.

2. Host Routine Threads for Participation

Before I started up my first Aroha Knits KAL, every week I had a let's chat topic that I would pose to my group to get a conversation started and also get to know my followers better. To encourage participation, I entice my followers with a giveaway prize. All they had to do was post one in the thread to be entered and the more weeks they participated in, the more times their name would be entered in for the running. And at the end of the month (or four weeks) I would draw the winner and announce it. The prizes were pretty simple, a pattern of choice or a surprise package from Japan (many of the winners wanted the package). This resulted in engagement in the forums every week, where knitters from around the world got to chat with each other and with me!

This created a greater bond between the brand and the audience. And I say greater bond for the brand to the audience and not the other way around: by getting to know my audience better and seeing the engagement weekly, it drove me to want to provide better products for them. Basically, every day I love you all a little bit more so I want to do better for you.

3. Use Your Other Social Media Outlets to Link to Your Ravelry Group

When I posted my weekly let's chat threads, I made sure to announce it on my Instagram and Facebook. Why? Because my audience on those two outlets were growing weekly. I wanted to give the new members the chance to connect with me and the rest of the community in different ways.

4. Don't Be Afraid to Bring In Help

Managing a Ravelry group, posting consistently to Instagram and Facebook, writing blog posts, preparing new designs and products all while trying to stay healthy and happy takes a LOT of work. I found out that posting weekly topics to Ravelry took a lot of work for me and tired me out so I asked a community member who participated often and enjoyed being part of the community to come on as a moderator. We switched back and forth every week for the let's chats and it really helped me. You don't have to do everything alone!

5. Participate in Not Just Your Group, But Others As Well

Ok. I'm going to say upfront that this is a do as I say, not as I do because this is something I do need to work on. That said, participating in your group should be a no-brainer. However, it is also a good idea to post in other groups as well, especially in the general threads (such as "Designers", "Budding Designers"). Putting your name out for others to see is important for developing name recognition (as it goes without saying...). Double points if you are able to provide value to the threads you post in and people will start tagging you for your expertise. I struggle with this because I am more of a lurker. If you also struggle with this, but know that it is a good idea to participate in these threads, set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day to just writing one post or reply in a thread you feel like you could really contribute to. And then click out of the thread and don't return to it until the next day. 

Tip: If you want to start your own group, you can do so by going to the tab "Groups" then clicking on "Start a Group Now". 

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